GP Liverpool and Tarking some Dragons

Hello again!!!

I am back to talk about how GP Liverpool went for me, which happened in the first weekend of march and was the first GP organized by an American TO in Europe. I will also talk a little bit about Dragons of Tarkir limited and share with you all my first impressions after last weekend’s pre-release.

GP Liverpool

Despite having no byes for this event, going to GP Liverpool was a no-brainer to me as I am living in London and have never been to the Beatles land before. If I made Day 2, GREAT, I would celebrate in some great Beatles-themed pubs, if not, I would have Sunday to make some tourism around and get to know some great Beatles-themed pubs. It was a clear win-win situation.

Since last December I knew I was attending the GP, so I’ve been drafting a lot of Khans of Tarkir since then. However, after the release of Fate Reforged I felt like I had to learn the format again. I never thought Fate Reforged could change the format so much as it did, both Sealed and Draft. Of course it wasn’t a completely different and new format, but some features were different enough that you had to re-evaluate some concepts and adapt some choices in order to build your decks. A clear example of that can be found in the speed of the format. It was the first time that I saw a small set make Sealed faster and Draft slower. You will understand better what I mean here as I talk about the tournament.

First of all, I have to say that this GP was amazing. The tournament venue was very good, it was the best I have been so far and the event itself was very well run by ChannelFireball. Congrats!!!

My approach for this Sealed format was checking first what 3-color combinations my lands allowed me to play. With the introduction of Fate Reforged there was a reduction in mana fixing and in the number of powerful golden cards (morphs or not), thus, the reasons and viability to go 4- or 5- color diminished a lot. Because of that, I had a “rule” for my Sealed deckbuilding that I would not play more than 3 colors unless there were enough mana fixing, powerful cards rewarding the splash, AND my pool was really lacking power on just 3 colors.

My pool was nothing special, but it was not bad either. It was just average. My mana fixing allowed me to play the Abzan colors well enough and I was really happy about that because that’s was my favorite “clan” for Sealed. I think an average Abzan deck beats all the other average “clans” decks and even some other good decks. Well, here is what I registered for Day 1:

Unfortunately, just two of my rares, Wildcall and Shamanic Revelation, were in the colors of my fixing. They are fine cards but neither is a bomb rare. The other things that I look for are removal, card advantage, and “quality” low drops. It is not ideal to play vanilla 2-mana 2/2s in Sealed but you need to have some early plays, especially if you don’t have much removal, that’s why I look for “high-quality” 2-drops in my pool. They are an important factor when I am in doubt about one color versus another. In that sense I was lucky enough to have Heir of the Wilds, Whisperer of the Wilds, Seeker of the Way, Jeskai Barricade and Mardu Skullhunter.

I thought I was really well-served with good 2-drops and really happy about not having to play actual vanilla 2/2s or 2/1s. I was particularly happy to have Whisperer of the Wilds because I usually like to play 18 lands in this format and the Whisperer allows me to play just 17 with no real downsides. Sure, it is a bad topdeck, but it would have been a land anyway, so it can at least chump block for a turn and give me one more turn to draw something relevant. Heir of the Wilds retains its value for the entire game. Jeskai Barricade really impressed me going from a great early play against fast Mardu decks to being a protection spell against removal heavy decks. I was unsure about Seeker of the Way due to my not-so-high noncreature spell count, but he was great. Mardu Skullhunter is the worst of them but at least it is some sort of card advantage and was a nice combo with the aforementioned Barricade.

Aside from Shamanic Revelation, which was very good against other midrange decks, I had Bitter Revelation as card advantage spell and delve enabler. That went really well with my Hooting Mandrills and Gurmag Angler. My only big concern about this deck was the removal department. I really think I was a little short on removals since I had only 3 (Reach of Shadows, Hunt the Weak and Harsh Sustenance).

Day 1 went well and this time I was able to deliver a 7-2 record. In my seventh attempt I finally made Day 2 and I have to say it was a huge relief to get that seventh win in round 9. My 2 losses were to a rare-heavy Temur deck (round 6) and to a 5-color control deck (round 8) with the great fixing, lots of card advantage and enough early defenses, really the worst matchup for my deck. The games I won were either against fast Mardu or Jeskai decks, matchups where I think my deck was better positioned or against decks with greedy manabases where at some point they were lacking some color and the consistency of my deck and manabase won me the game. To exemplify that, there was a match where my opponent were playing Jeskai splashing black for Ponyback Brigade, Bellowing Saddlebrute and bombs like Archfiend of Depravity and Soulflayer. Sure, these cards are powerful and my deck would have a very hard time dealing with more than one of them, however, the inconsistency of his manabase cost him both games 2 and 3. Game 2 he never saw a black source and game 3 when he found the second black source (tapped!!!) to cast the bombs I was far ahead and had answers in my hand. In golden formats like this, there is a dangerous and thin line between power and consistency.

Unfortunately, my Day 2 did not go so well. In the first draft I was firmly in white after pack 1 and settled to draft an aggressive 2-color deck. Then I just took too long to decide my second color (black or green) only to find myself without enough playables in either color combination. I was forced to play Abzan without a SINGLE nonbasic land. Oh well, I guess I forgot my own consistency rule. The worst thing is that I got some nice blue late picks in Fate Reforged and completely ignored the option of going just UW. That was probably where I should have done. This was my deck:

Obviously, I had mana problems and lost my first 2 rounds. Ironically, in the last round of the pod I played against the guy who drafted the 5-color control deck and picked ALL the lands. Fortunately for me was that he had all the lands but lacked powerful cards and I won both games easily.

I headed to the second draft aware that I had to have more discipline and prioritize some lands if I wanted to play 3-color decks. I was fortunate enough to open a Dromoka, the Eternal!!! With that, I was pretty sure I wanted to end up playing Abzan. I could also play straight G/W but I really don’t like this color combination very much in this format. So, I still needed the lands and the discipline. Next pack gave me the option of a Jungle Hollow versus Sandblast. This was a very tough choice for me. I knew I wanted the land, but it was just second pick and I also had to settle myself in green and white too. In the end I took the Sandblast because I thought the kind of deck I wanted needed it, I thought I had plenty of time to get the lands and because I wanted to cut white and green as best as possible. Unfortunately, I did not see any other lands in my colors for the rest of the pack.

For the second pack I was willing to taking the lands over almost anything. I took Abzan Charm p1p2 out of a weak pack. My strategy of cutting white and green paid off as I got passed Anafenza, the Foremost and her Herald in pack 2, however, to my dismay I got only one Blossoming Sands. At this point I was desperate and would take lands over ANYTHING. My deck was already good, I just needed the lands!!! Unfortunately, the only land in my colors that I saw was a Scoured Barrens and nothing else. Someone else was drafting 5-color again and there was nothing I could really do. I think this was the case because I didn’t see any removal either. Once again I didn’t have enough playables to play only two colors and registered this deck:

This time the lack of fixing ended up not even mattering as in both of my matches I lost two games stuck in 2 or 3 lands for several turns. I got a last round bye as consolation and left the venue with a bitter taste in my mouth. In general I was, and am, still pretty happy for finally have been able to make day 2. It is pretty rewarding to see your results evolving as you increase your efforts to become a better player.

Well, I’ve talked enough about the GP and the Khans/Fate Reforged format. Let’s talk a little about the new format, let’s get…

TAL(R)KING SOME DRAGONS

I had the chance to play in the pre-release and in a Sealed release event and I have to say I am very excited with this new set and limited format. In my opinion, all the five clans are well balanced and the mechanics are very interesting and provide a lot of gameplay decisions, thus the games become much more complex and fun. I also liked very much that the format now is 4 boosters of Dragons of Tarkir and 2 of Fate Reforged. Fate Reforged is just not a great set for limited. Besides the fact that the power gap between the rares and the uncommons and commons is huge, there are poor designed (for limited play) rares like Citadel Siege that are not fun at all to play against. Basically the card says “play me early and win the game”. It is not interactive at all and being an enchantment just makes very hard for anyone to have an answer most of the time. Even if you side in enchantment removal, you have the risk of not drawing it or drawing it too late. For me, it is even a worse problem than Pack Rat was in Return to Ravnica limited.

With that said, I have to say something very important: Exploit is the REAL DEAL!!!

It is not unbeatable or anything, but it always offers flexibility, sometimes offers value and when it comes with a powerful effect it is just absurd. I think UB exploit will be the best archetype in draft followed by RB exploit (because Dragon Fodder is a great enabler) and Ux tempo (because flyers are the best way to race exploit and rebound let you keep up in terms of value), probably green is the best “x” but I can see any color being a good pair, even black itself as it has great aggressive cards as well.

Aggro decks seem very viable too. There are a lot of good two-drops in every color. In my opinion, the key for agro decks will be avoiding one-toughness creatures as most as they can. Usually, a card like Dromoka Warrior is a very high pick, not this time. In this format one-toughness is a huge liability due to the plethora of 1/1 “value” guys around such as Palace Familiar, Jeskai Sage, Sultai Emissary, Shambling Goblin, and token generators like Dragon Fodder and Sandsteppe Outcast. These cards would already be playable, with Exploit in the format they become even better.

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Simply put, if you are the aggro deck with several X/1s you will find yourself more often than you’d like in the wrong side of a bad trade. For this reason, I believe the best aggro decks will be green-based, just for the fact that they have bigger creatures. With this I am not saying that you can’t have great aggro decks in other color combinations, you just have to be aware that you can’t just count on curving out and on the size of your creatures. You will have to lean more on evasion and combat tricks and the lack of these components will affect much more your win %.

I am also delight to have a great Merfolk Looter in the format in Zephyr Scribe. Another great card to have around is Anticipate and both of these cards together are insanely good. In one of my games I had this sequence: at the end of opponent’s turn I looted, played Anticipate, untapped Scribe, looted again. It is very hard to lose a game with this kind of card filtering.

This is what I had for you today, hope you have enjoyed it, and most important: Draft some Dragons!!!

Thanks for reading!
Rodolfo Maia

 

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